Tag Archives: zombie

Do you want to service your government’s debts forever?

At last the Torygraph comes out with an article that tries to make the Zombie Economy seem like a good thing.

The idea is to make slaves out of every working person in the UK, by ensuring that their taxes do not pay for services, but instead service the ever-mounting debts racked up by right-wing governments such as we have at the moment.

IMF economists cited research by Moody’s Analytics that suggested countries such as the UK, US and Canada could afford to live “forever” with relatively high debt shares compared with their pre-crisis averages.

… claims the Torygraph‘s Szu Ping Chan.

We can conclude that the so-called ‘developing’ nations were offered the same language by the IMF when it imposed ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ on them. These SAPs perform several functions as follows:

  • They enforce the sale of nationalised industries and resources (mostly to foreign-owned investors and governments.
  • They remove capital controls on money flowing into and out of the country.
  • They dictate the level of public spending.
  • They prioritise debt repayments and corporate welfare over infrastructure development and personal welfare (the good of a company becomes more important than the good of the people).
  • And they demand wage suppression and the restriction of labour unions.

As you can see, much of this is already taking place in the UK.

It is a way to force neoliberal economics onto a country without having to worry about getting the people to vote for it (even though, bizarrely, the UK did vote for it last month).

Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s extremely useful book Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy states: “Structural Adjustment Programmes are now being rolled out across Europe, disguised as ‘Austerity Programmes’ – to reorientate European economies toward servicing the debt economy. Central banks are lending to stabilise national economies that have been broken by the cost of bailing out other banks. The central banks make these funds contingent upon the national government imposing an Austerity programme.”

And you know what the worst of it is?

The whole point of the ‘Austerity programme’ is that you can never pay your way out of it.

Look at the amount of debt that George Osborne has racked up in just five years.

Source: Britain can afford to live with high debt ‘forever’, says IMF – Telegraph

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Greece could break Austerity – if Tsipras has the courage

150324tsipras-merkel

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss his country’s economic strategy and debt repayments.

The point of Austerity in Greece was never to help that country pay off its debts; it was to create a permanent debt that Greece would never be able to pay off.

Under a submissive government, this was feasible – as it has been in many countries in what is laughably called the Developing World – but now Syriza has taken control and Alexis Tsipras could have the Troika (European Central Bank, IMF and the European Union – the three organisations that have been lending money to the Greek government) over a barrel.

The plan was to add Greece to the list of nations running a ‘zombie economy’ in the service of neoliberal corporate interests, rather than the well-being of its own citizens.

The Troika’s settlement with Greece was similar to that carved out by the western banks with the Developing World – the creation of a Debt Trap.

Western banks indulged in a lending spree across the Developing World during the latter half of the 20th century but the oil shocks of the 1970s created a domino effect of economic disaster which ended up putting most of Africa and Latin America on the verge of bankruptcy.

They could not be allowed to default on their debts. This would have allowed those countries to recover but would have harmed the western world – both economically and politically, as its influence would have faded.

So the IMF stepped in with ‘bridging loans’, ensuring that the original debts could be serviced – but there was a cost. In return for these loans, the IMF created a mechanism called the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP – an appropriate acronym as it has sapped away a huge amount of money from every nation where it has been used).

The SAP set conditions under which debtor nations were provided the bridging loans: The sale of nationalised industries and resources – mostly to foreign-owned corporations and governments; the removal of capital controls on money flowing into and out of these nations; allowing the IMF to dictate the level of public spending; prioritising debt repayment and corporate welfare over infrastructure investment and human welfare; and suppression of wages and restrictions on trade unions.*

This is more or less the deal that Greece was offered.

The result has been clear – as Professor Simon Wren-Lewis pointed out in his Mainly Macro blog yesterday: “Austerity… is of course why Greek GDP has fallen by 25 per cent.”

At the moment, the Troika is threatening Tsipras with the loss of further loans, as he has stated that he intends to reverse the privatisations that have been forced on Greece over the last few years, raise the minimum wage, and increase public spending. These are measures designed to reverse the Troika-engineered Greek economic collapse and make it possible to start paying off the huge debt the country has built up.

Tsipras wants that money because he wants his economic recovery to take place in an orderly way, so he has agreed not to roll back the privatisations that have already taken place but to review those that haven’t; to introduce collective wage-bargaining, stopping short of raising the minimum wage but encouraging non-statutory wage rises; and tackling the humanitarian crisis with free medical care for the uninsured unemployed, along with housing guarantees, at no extra cost to the public purse.

But here’s the thing: Greece can manage without that loan money, if it has to. Yes, there will be a great deal of pain, but Tsipras effectively has the Troika over a barrel. The promise of some money is better than no money. All he has to do is hold his nerve and point out that what the Troika is doing is exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to be doing.

By funding Greece during Austerity, the Troika was perpetuating its debt, rather than helping end that debt; now it is actively fighting a plan that will genuinely help end that debt. And the world can see this.

It is an important lesson for the UK, as well. This country didn’t need the Troika to enforce privatisation, wage suppression, public spending restrictions and so on because we have a neoliberal Conservative-led government that is already avid for those things.

Our economy has suffered badly – and our people have suffered brutally – because of these choices by rich Conservatives who have not had to bear any of the pain themselves.

For no reason.

It seems possible that both Greece and the UK could probably take a leaf out of 1920s German chancellor Gustav Streseman’s book – re-industrialisation and (in Greece’s case) renegotiation of loans and an exit from the Euro in order to create a new currency. Whether that is practical is best left to economists who have more expertise than a layman like this writer.

What is clear is that Austerity – and its champions – are bad for everybody’s national interest.

*Austerity – The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, published by New Internationalist. Pick up a copy now!

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‘Zombie’ Parliament has nothing to do because of Cameron’s self-importance

Flinging around the bling: Someone should have told David Cameron that he shouldn't surround himself with gold when he's rubbing the proles' noses in unlimited austerity. The horse impression may also have been ill-judged.

Opulence in the midst of austerity: David Cameron doesn’t care about the suffering his government has caused – he’s been too busy enjoying the perks of wealth and power (also pictured: someone who recently had to quit her job chairing the inquiry into historical child sex abuse because of an unfortunate association with a – different – Tory minister. Still, it isn’t all bad, is it?) with his friends.

The cat’s out of the bag – tying Parliament to a fixed term of five years was an “irresponsible” act that has “diminished Parliament in the eyes of the public.

That’s the verdict of former House of Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd (who is neither the ‘cat’ nor the ‘bag’ mentioned in the introductory paragraph, thank you very much).

Research has shown that MPs sat for just 44 per cent of weekdays over the past year, and only 11 new bills have been introduced in this Parliamentary session – the second lowest in recent history.

Our MPs are working the equivalent of zero-hours contracts – but being paid almost three times as much as most people in full-time employment. Nice work if you can get it!

The revelation that Parliamentary business on Monday was finished after just three hours has led to revived accusations that the Coalition is now running a ‘zombie’ Parliament – just ticking over until the election, while doing nothing about the serious issues of our times.

Baroness Boothroyd said this time-wasting was “an insult to the Parliamentary system” – and she’s right.

We should all know where to lay the blame, too: David Cameron’s puffed-up sense of self-importance, coupled (disconcertingly) with his insecurity.

After he conned his way into Number 10, Cameron knew his position was precarious, so he set about ensuring that he would have the time he felt he needed to inflict on the nation the damage he intended for (among others) the NHS, the welfare state, the economy and the justice system.

That’s why he made sure that his government could only be removed with a confidence vote that would have to be supported by a large proportion of his own Conservative MPs. This would never happen because Tories love power.

Previously, a confidence vote only needed to be won by more than half the MPs in the House of Commons. Cameron changed this because more than half the MPs in the Commons belong to other parties.

That guaranteed his security, but we should also consider his sense of self-importance. Cameron didn’t care if his government ran out of work before the end – he was determined to be Prime Minister for the maximum amount of time possible.

That’s why we have been kept waiting for an election. He knows he won’t win but he’s determined to sit in Downing Street, crossing off the days on his calendar, for just as long as he possibly can.

He doesn’t care if this means a massive increase in the suffering caused by his policies.

He just wants to guarantee his own place in history.

In fact, we all know that Cameron’s place in history is guaranteed already. His place in history is already assured:

“David Cameron: Worst-ever British Prime Minister.”

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Why NHS charging is a zombie policy

http://youtu.be/e6ci9ROmTO8

Several political organisations (including, to Yr Obdt Srvt’s regret, Labour) have been talking up the possibility of imposing charges on the public for NHS services. Possibilities under discussion have included direct charging at the point of use or a new ‘NHS tax’. Nobody wants to mention that this means paying for the NHS twice (we already fund it with our taxes/NI contributions).

BBC Radio 4 recently ran a debate on NHS charging, on which one of the speakers was Dr Clive Peedell. This gentleman is a stalwart of the National Health Action Party, the political group founded to end the Coalition’s privatisation of healthcare by defeating the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at election time.

He made many solid points – information that the public needed to hear. We know this because the presenter tried to shout him down while he was in full flow, and in the Tory-dominated BBC this is always a sure sign that a speaker is on the right track.

The YouTube clip (above) whittles down the debate to cover only Dr Peedell’s words, in which he states that:

  • It is a myth that charges can reduce demand for healthcare; this is a zombie policy.
  • If people start paying they expect more from the service, so you get people with wants, rather than needs.
  • The NHS has been chronically under-funded for decades – by £267 billion over 25 years.
  • It is become a fantastically efficient system and all the evidence suggests that progressive taxation is the fairest way to pay for healthcare.
  • Even so, there are efficiencies that can be made – the market system costs £10 billion per year in administration costs, and 10 per cent of the budget pays off venture capitalists who invested in costly PFI schemes.
  • Austerity increases demand on the healthcare system and reduces supply.
  • And healthcare spending stimulates economic growth so we should increase healthcare expenditure with money reclaimed from tax avoiders.

The clip is well worth playing.

After all, it isn’t often you hear anybody talking sensibly about the health service for nearly six minutes!

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Voters of Newark, what were you thinking?

The result: The Tory who won is so unremarkable that I've forgotten his name. More interesting is the chap in the big hat behind him; at first I thought he was the Monster Raving Loony candidate, but it seems more likely he's one of the voters.

The result: The Tory who won is so unremarkable that I’ve forgotten his name. More interesting is the chap in the big hat behind him; at first I thought he was the Monster Raving Loony candidate, but it seems more likely he’s one of the voters.

One has to ask what is wrong with the people of a Parliamentary constituency when, after four years of a desperately inept and corrupt Conservative-led government, they decide to elect another Tory as their representative in a by-election.

Which of the government’s policies clinched it for you, Newark? Was it the brutality inflicted on people who are out of work – particularly those with long-term illnesses and disabilities? Does the fact that people are being driven to suicide at an almost-hourly rate turn you on?

Was it the determination to push your wages down in order to inflate bosses’ and shareholders’ salaries, forcing a higher take-up of taxpayer-funded in-work benefits? Do you like paying high taxes to support the very, very rich?

Was it perhaps the ongoing privatisation of the NHS? Do you think that’s healthy for the people of Britain? Perhaps rickets hasn’t yet reappeared in your constituency but it’s just a matter of time. Are you looking forward to getting tuberculosis?

Maybe you are looking forward to the government’s Legal Aid changes that will put innocent people in jail and leave criminals free to roam your streets and victimise you any way they want?

Or do you really want a Conservative majority in Parliament so they can push through their long-cherished dream of taking away your human rights? Is that what you want?

That’s what your votes supported!

Worse still, you put UKIP in second place. UKIP! The party that, besides supporting the destruction of the NHS (you’ve come out very strongly for private healthcare, Newark, I hope you know that) wants to put your taxes up (although they’re trying to hide that now because people found out and didn’t like it), and supports marital rape.

Way to go, Newark.

At least you had the good sense to kick the Liberal Democrats down to sixth place and the loss of their deposit – but that just means you’re schizoid, Newark! You reward the Conservatives for policies that are a hazard to your health, and punish their coalition partners for the same reasons!

Way to go, Newark.

It should be noted that turnout was just 52.67 per cent. Presumably the other 47.33 per cent are the “disenchanted” voters of whom Ed Miliband spoke so eloquently in his response to the Queen’s Speech (did you hear the Queen’s Speech, Newark? She listed 11 more-or-less pointless bills put forward by a zombie Parliament – which you have supported).

Let us hope those 34,779 lost voters can be persuaded to re-engage with democracy in time for next year’s general election, and restore sanity to your constituency.

Now go away, Newark.

You really don’t deserve all this attention.

(The latest Vox Political book collection – Health Warning: Government! – is now available. It is a cracking read and fantastic value for money. Only available via the Internet, it may be purchased here in print and eBook form, along with the previous VP release, Strong Words and Hard Times.

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